National

With a spring in its step, BJP may advance Gujarat Assembly elections

Virendra Pandit Ahmedabad | Updated on January 13, 2018 Published on March 14, 2017

Ever since Narendra Modi left Gandhinagar in May 2014 as the PM, the ruling party in his home state has been struggling to contain political unrest, fissiparous activities, agitations and anti-incumbency.

Spectacular performance in four out of five states in the just-concluded Assembly polls has re-energised the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Gujarat, where Vidhan Sabha elections are due by December 2017.

Suddenly, Gujarat’s political climate has undergone a sea-change, from doubt to “certainty”. The question now being asked in political circles here is not whether the ruling party would return to power this year but whether the BJP would outperform the Congress Party’s 149 Assembly seats, out of a total of 182, which it won under the leadership of the then Chief Minister Madhav Sinh Solanki in 1985. On March 7, Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself set this target, of winning at least 150 seats, when he met BJP leaders here, just a day after he wound up his UP election tour.

But the voters’ memory is proverbially short, like the gains at Sensex and Nifty. And who knows it better than BJP President Amit Shah, who began his career as a stock broker.

So, lest the great momentum and pro-BJP sentiment generated by the stupendous victory in Uttar Pradesh wane faster than expected, speculation is rife that the BJP might advance the Assembly polls in Gujarat, its most saffron and reliable fortress since 1995. Sources said here on Tuesday that the Assembly polls in Gujarat are likely to be held along with elections to the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), as early as in April/May 2017.

With the Aam Admi Party (AAP) shell-shocked due to the March 11 verdict, particularly in Punjab and Goa, a combative BJP is expected to give the Arvind Kejriwal-led party a run for its money and votes in the MCD polls.

Similarly, the main Opposition Congress Party, which was too busy ‘celebrating’ the solitary Punjab victory and thus lost sight of power in Goa and Manipur, is yet to get its act together in Gujarat, too. Both these outfits—one the youngest and the other the oldest—were expecting a “miracle” in Gujarat Assembly polls.

Kejriwal, who visited Gujarat last year to a rousing reception at some places and raised, among others, the Dalit issues, brought back Sukhdev Patel into the party leadership recently. The Delhi CM was also planning a Gujarat visit again in March-end. But nobody in the party is sure any more if he would now come at all, what with the MCD polls looming large on his own turf in an intensely pro-BJP climate.

A possible victory in Delhi and a return to power in Gujarat would go a long way in making the BJP’s rivals fall in line when the NDA announces a successor to President Pranab Mukherjee before Parliament meets again for the Monsoon Session. The President has been in office since July 2012.

Ever since Narendra Modi left Gandhinagar in May 2014 as the PM, the ruling party in his home state has been struggling to contain political unrest, fissiparous activities, agitations and anti-incumbency. The BJP had even to change horses mid-stream when it replaced Anandiben Patel, a protégé of the PM, with that of Vijay Rupani, whose mentor is Amit Shah. Even Modi has, so far, visited Gujarat as many as 10 times , seven times only since September 2016, just to make the warring leaders fall in line.

But both Modi and Shah know there is no time to rest as far as Gujarat is concerned.

Published on March 14, 2017
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